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Blogger/Editor/Founder: Bill Smith, Ph.D. [aka: OzarkGuru & 2010 AFP National Blogger of the Year]
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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Keeping Politics Out of Federal Contracting Act of 2011

Republican Senators and Representatives Introduced Companion Legislation To Bar The Executive Branch From Inserting Politics Into Federal Contracting
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Rob Portman (R-OH) today introduced legislation to prohibit federal agencies from collecting or using information about political contributions made by small, family-owned businesses or larger companies that wish to do business with the federal government.

Senator Collins is the Ranking Republican on the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs which oversees federal contracting.

On the House side, Representatives Darrell Issa (R-CA), Tom Cole (R-OK), and Sam Graves (R-MO) also introduced an identical measure today.  And last night the House adopted an amendment to the defense authorization bill that would prohibit federal agencies from requiring contractors to reveal contributions to political campaigns.

In April, the Administration drafted a proposed Executive Order requiring federal agencies to collect information about campaign contributions and political expenditures of any business or individual bidding on a federal contract before awarding the contract.  On April 26, Senator Collins and 26 colleagues sent a letter to the White House critical of the policy that would require information about political contributions to be a part of every federal contract offer. The letter emphasizes that taxpayers should receive the best value for federal contracts,  and thus government procurements must be conducted in a manner that ensures a fair process, free from politics.  The Senators have not received a response to the letter.

The “Keeping Politics Out of Federal Contracting Act of  2011” reaffirms the fundamental principle that federal contracts should be awarded free from political considerations and be based on the best value to the taxpayers.  Specifically, the bill would:
  • Prohibit a federal agency from collecting the political information of contractors and their employees as part of any type of request for proposal in anticipation of any type of contract;
  • Prohibit the agency from using political information received from any source as a factor in the source selection decision process for new contracts, or in making decisions related to modifications or extensions of existing contracts; and
  • Prohibit databases designed to be used by contracting officers to determine the responsibility of bidders from including political information (except for information on contractors’ violations already permitted by law).
“The President’s draft order would insert politics into the federal procurement process,” said Senator Collins.  “Our bill would keep politics out of federal contracting.  What possible good can come from linking political information to a process which must be grounded solely and unequivocally on providing the very best value to American taxpayers?  It is unfathomable that this Administration would consider a move that would inject politics into the process, or create a perception that politics is something to be considered in selecting the winners and losers among businesses vying for federal contracts.”

Leader McConnell said: “Senator Collins’ efforts to prevent an executive order would prevent a brazen power grab, it would prevent the implementation of an executive action that amounts to no less than a political shakedown of American job creators.  For the first time in history, the executive branch would be forcing all businesses, but not labor unions, to detail their political activities as a condition of bidding on a federal contract.

“This unprecedented demand to scour a company’s political activities would represent an outrageous and anti-Democratic abuse of executive branch authority clearly aimed at silencing or intimidating political adversaries’ speech through the government contracting system. Democracy is threatened when the federal government evaluates American businesses and their leaders on their political associations.

“No White House should be able to review your political party affiliation before deciding if you’re worthy of a government contract, and Americans should not have to worry about whether their political support will determine their ability to get or keep a federal contract or keep their job.

“I will continue to work with the supporters of this legislation, under the leadership of Senator Collins, to prevent this unprecedented power grab.”

“Whether the government hires a private company to do a job should be about that company’s ability to do the job well and at low cost to taxpayers – not whether that company has been on the right or wrong side in politics,” said Senator Alexander, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.

“The executive order would reverse years of efforts to get politics out of the contracting process,” said Senator Portman. “I hope the President will abandon this order that is being drafted behind closed doors, but we are taking no chances.  This bill would ensure that contracting decisions are focused on getting the best value for American taxpayers, not on political considerations.”

In addition to Senator Collins, Minority Leader McConnell, Rules Committee Ranking Member Lamar Alexander, Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight Ranking Member Rob Portman, other cosponsors include: Republican Whip Jon Kyl, Senators Scott Brown, Ron Johnson, Jerry Moran, Orrin Hatch, Chuck Grassley, Mike Enzi, John Cornyn, Richard Burr, Johnny Isakson, David Vitter, John Thune, John Barrasso, Roger Wicker, Mike Johanns, Dan Coats, and Kelly Ayotte.  View Senate Companion bill.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, Rep. Tom Cole, and Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves today introduced legislation that would prohibit federal agencies from collecting or using information relating to campaign contributions and other political expenditures by potential contractors in the federal procurement process.

In April, the Administration floated the idea of an Executive Order requiring federal agencies to collect information about the campaign contributions and other political expenditures of potential contractors before awarding any federal contract.

On May 12th the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and House Small Business Committee held a joint hearing where the White House witness repeatedly refused to answer questions, including where the draft executive order came from and whether individuals outside the White House were involved in crafting it.

The “Keeping Politics Out of Federal Contracting Act of  2011” reaffirms the fundamental principle that federal contracts should be awarded free from political considerations and be based on the best value to the taxpayers.  Specifically, the bill would: [Same Points as in Senate press release above]

“This legislation preempts an executive order designed to silence and intimidate job creators and Americans who are passionate enough to a support cause,” said Chairman Issa. “Businesses should not have to determine and report to the government on whether certain employees contributed to organizations that support or oppose positions on issues including gay marriage and abortion. Imagine your employer asking for such information – it would happen for some if the current draft executive order is put in place.”

"The administration's proposal would effectively politicize the federal procurement process. Under the executive order, companies could be unfairly judged on the basis of politics as opposed to their professional capabilities,” said Rep. Cole. “Government agencies should award contracts based on merit and value to taxpayers -- not politics. Americans should have the right to support the political candidates and causes of their choosing without fear that their income will be jeopardized.  This legislation protects the rights of businesses and keeps politics out of the federal procurement process."

“Forcing small businesses that are seeking government contracts to disclose political contributions will wrongly politicize the federal procurement process,” said Chairman Graves. “Government contracts are supposed to be awarded based on merit, not political support. Both Republicans and Democrats agree that this is a bad idea because we need less politics in Washington, not more. In addition, Congress and the Supreme Court have both already weighed in on this topic, so an Executive Order would circumvent and disrespect the regular policy-making process.”

U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senators Lamar Alexander and Rob Portman introduced a Senate companion bill. View Proposed House Bill: Keeping Politics Out of Federal Contracting Act of 2011.

A former Federal Acquisitions Contracting Officer, Dr. Bill Smith, ARRA News Service Editor, responded to the above proposed bills, "I am pleased with the introductions of these bills. However, I had hoped that President Obama would remove any avenues of collecting private campaign contribution information from citizens or businesses which could then be used in a partisan fashion to corrupt the Federal Acquisition process and the award determination for contracts. I am sure that if this type of Executive Order had been considered by Republican president or his staff, the Democrat would not have remained silent and hopefully would have taken the same action as proposed today by the Republicans."

Dr. Smith is also a National Contract Management Association Fellow and has previously commented on this grievous situation:
"As a former Federal Acquisitions Contracting Officer, the last thing I would wish to know or to consider is information about where and to whom the owners, executives or employees of a business or company donated campaign money. It is none of my business. The public does not need others especially elected or appointed politicians and their staff - including the President, knowing this type information and then pressuring contracting officers or their agencies to award contracts to contractors based on politics.

"Contracting Officers are to determine contract awards based on price and the contractor's ability to meet the contract's technical specifications. It is presently illegal for members of the White House, Congress or any one in an agency to put political pressure on a Contracting Officer to sway the decision of the award of the contract to a particular contractor or away from a particular contractor. . . . [O]ne should ask what is the White House doing proposing an Executive Order which in fact codifies that Chicago style corruption to be implemented from the White House and through all levels of Federal Government acquisitions. It is evident that someone is seeking to drag the Administration down a path which will be both destructive to the White House and to the reputation of the Federal Government as a whole."

Tags: US House, US Senate, bills, politics, federal contracting, Obama administration, stopping corruption, free speech, campaign contributions, collecting information, contract awards, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!
Posted by Bill Smith at 4:32 PM - Post Link

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